This feature is part of the CN&R’s 2023 Entrepreneur Issue.
In 2013, Shenlyn and Martin Svec’s lives were changed by, of all things, a few scoops of ice cream. The couple were vacationing in Texas when they had their first taste of “artisan” ice cream from an Austin parlor called Lick Honest Ice Creams. For Shenlyn, a dream to create her own was born as they enjoyed bowls filled with exotic flavor combinations like goat cheese, thyme and honey and dark chocolate, olive oil and sea salt.
Upon returning to Chico, Svec started making her own ice cream and hoped to someday share her creations beyond family and friends. Nearly a decade later, she’s realized that goal with Savor Ice Cream in Meriam Park.
Savor, which opened in October, serves traditional dairy and vegan artisan-style ice cream in a variety of eclectic flavors of Svec’s own creation. All of Savor’s creams—and even the waffle cones—are gluten-free and made in-house. Popular flavors right now include dairy-made Earl Grey & Honey and Cookies & cream, as well as non-dairy delicacies like Vegan Orange Creamsicle and Vegan S’mores. Many of the varieties are seasonal, and Svec plans to offer options like Santa Rosa plum, balsamic strawberry and Thai basil come summer.
“It takes ice cream to a more culinary level,” she said of the artisan tag. “It’s made from scratch and I like to see how far I can take each ingredient to make it work in ice cream. It’s kind of like a gourmet restaurant where they go the extra mile to focus on things like flavor pairing and layered flavors.”
This distinction, she said, means Savor has a place in Chico’s already vibrant ice cream scene. “Other places in town all have their specialties that are different than ours, so I think there’s plenty of room for everyone.”
Svec said this “community over competition” outlook is one of the driving forces behind Savor. To that end, several ingredients are sourced from other local businesses, including Daycamp Coffee, Chico Chai, Erickson Oranges, Alvarado Family Farms (almonds), Wofchuck Honey Co. and Heitkam’s Honey.
The location also separates Savor from similar endeavors: “We’re out here where there wasn’t much before. There’s a lot of older homes on what used to be the outskirts of town, and now those people have a place they can walk to, which is one of the advantages of all the new businesses in Meriam Park.”
The story of how Savor ended up opening in Meriam Park—after a 10-year-long rocky road to realizing Svec’s goal—is as fate-filled as those first bites in Texas. Over the years, she considered selling ice cream from a truck, a booth at the Chico Certified Farmers’ Market or a bicycle cart, but learned California law requires a brick-and-mortar location for vendors who make and sell creams. There were other obstacles as well, so she’d pretty much given up on making it a reality, though the idea resurfaced every few years.
Svec said she was working part-time at the now-closed Meriam Park gardening store Plant Love Chico (her primary pre-Savor occupation was teaching) when a friend stopped in and asked if she still made ice cream. Plant Love proprietor Scott Peterson overheard the conversation, asked her about it and told her that, amazingly, Meriam Park developer Dan Gonzales was holding a space specifically for an artisan ice cream shop. She emailed Gonzales, received a reply within an hour, and set up a meeting.
“It wasn’t even on my radar to open a shop at the time, or to dive back into it,” she said. “I was barely making ice cream anymore, just every once in a while at home. Then things just started to line up.”
She jumped at the chance, and the rest is history. She said business has been good so far, enabling her to hire nine part-time employees. In mid-January, the store had its busiest hour to date, with people “lined up out the door,” which she hopes is an indicator of how things will shape up this summer.
Svec said she trains her employees not to rush patrons, which is core to the creamery’s philosophy which she said is captured in the name Savor. The business was originally going to be called “Happy Corner,” but she was inspired to change it by a poem by Cleo Wade called “all of it,” which is about slowing down to love life and love oneself (it even reads, in part, “befriend your ingredients.”)
“We tell our employees to just slow down, even if there’s a line out the door, to really be with each person,” she said. “This is their moment to taste all the flavors they want—really enjoy getting ice cream. It’s already meant to be a treat, so we want to provide a full, sweet experience.”
Savor Ice Cream
1905 Notre Dame Blvd., Ste. 100